Chidambaram Shri Thillai Nataraja temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in the town of Chidambaram. This temple is located on the Chennai Thanjavoor road at 245 km from the capital city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai. Located in the heart of the city: The area of the temple is 40 acres. There are nine gates to enter this temple, out of which four had long ‘Gopuram’ built. This Gopuram has 7 more wings of East, West, North and South. These Gopurams have 40 feet tall and 5 feet thick stone door frames studded with copper leaves.
The temples of Lord Vishnu and other Gods are also built in this building of Nataraja temple. There are rare temples that are dedicated to both Lord Vishnu & Lord Shiva and Chidambaram Nataraja temple is one of them. Mainly this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva but a separate place of worship for Lord Vishnu is also there. It is the largest temple in the world. Lord Shiva is also worshipped here in three forms. Along with Shiva the other Shrines of God includes: Lord Govind Raja (Lord Vishnu) Temple, Shrine of Moolasthana Linga, Brahma and Chandikeshvara Temple, Nine Lingas Temple, Murugan Temple, Ganesha Temple and Sivagamasundhari temple.
The ‘Kalash’ on the top of the temple are made up of Gold. The Gopurams in the entire department of the temple have the complete 108 Karanas of Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form. There is also a lake in the temple building which is called Shiv Ganga. This huge tank is in the third corridor of the temple, which is just opposite to the shrine of Goddess Shivgami. There is a well on the east side of the temple from where water is taken for the worship of the temple.
It is believed that Lord Shiva performed his ‘Ananda Tandava’ (Dance Of Delight) at this place. The most special thing about the idol made in this temple is that the image of Nataraja present here is decorated with ornaments and jewels. The idols of Nritya Mudra on the walls of this temple were executed on the basis of ‘Natya Sastra’. According to Hindu literature, this temple is one of the five Shiva temples that represent the five important elements of nature. This temple represents the sky. Chidambaram temple is hallowed by the lives of great saints. Patanjali and Vyagrapada adored Nataraja here. Lives of God-Love permeate every pore of Chidambaram.
Nataraja-the meaning of life. The drums in one hands of Nataraja signifies creation. The other raised hands signifies the protection. The fire indicates the destruction. The suppressed demons indicates illusion. One foot raised gives liberation. The smiling lip indicates that everything is his ‘leela’. Apart from the main idol, many other idols are carved on the walls with different dance postures. The formless form of Lord Shiva is also worshiped here. Shiva devotees come from all over the country and abroad to see this great temple and feel blessed by seeing the great artwork of their forefathers.
Bharatnatyam, an Indian Classical dance form
Bharat means India and Natyam means Dance. Bharatnatyam is the dance of India that originates from South side of India in the state named as Tamil Nadu specifically in the district called Thanjavur. It is an ancient dance form and got its origin from Natya Sastra. Natya Sastra is an ancient book written in the second century by the sage Bharata, so it is believed that the dance form Bharatnatyam is named after the writer’s name. It is believed that Lord Bhrama has given instruction to sage Bharata and with those instructions the sage has written the book in Sanskrit language called as Natya Sastra.
In this book of second century, the dance form Bharatnatyam is mentioned so we can say that this dance form is at least 2000 year old. In today’s 21st century Bharatnatyam is widely performed dance style by both male and female dancers all over the world. The architecture of the temple symbolizes the connection with the art and the spirituality. The dance postures forms the foundation of Bharatnatyam, a classical Indian dance form. Each posture depicts each step of Bharatnatyam dance form very clearly. The postures have different names. These names are in Sanskrit language. Dance postures along with instrument through which music is played is also carved on these sacred walls.
These sculptures with 108 poses of Bharatnatyam referred as Karana in Natya Sastra. Those sculptures are intricately carved in small rectangular panels in Chidambaram Nataraja temple. Initially, the dance form Bharatnatyam flourished in temples. The people who performed this dance in temples were referred as ‘Devdasi’. Dev means God and Dasi means the one who serves God performing this specific dance form. They lived inside the temple compound in the exclusive quarters. It said that dance was then called as ‘Sadir Natyam’ and later it called as Bharatnatyam. Eminent Bharatnatyam dancers like Rukmani Devi from the school of bharatnatyam and Balasaraswati from Thanjavoor style of Bharatnatyam expanded the dance form out of the Hindu temples and established it as a mainstream dance.
The dance form that we are currently practicing. Today, this ancient dance form includes technical performances and also non religious and fusion based themes that was actually mentioned in the 2nd century book Natya Sastra. Now this dance form is practiced all over the world irrespective of any race or religion.